Montreal police announced their new policy on street checks on Wednesday, months after an independent report found evidence of systemic bias linked to race in who they decide to stop.
The new protocols, set to roll out this fall, apply to pedestrians and people outside of cars — not drivers, despite the call for action on the phenomenon activists call “driving while Black,” where Black people are stopped more frequently without basis or justifiable reason.
Street checks involve officers stopping a person and recording their information regardless of whether an offence has been committed.
The report last fall found that people from certain racialized groups were much more likely than others to be stopped by police.
It found that Indigenous women were 11 times more likely to be questioned than their white counterparts, Black and Indigenous Montrealers were between four and five times more likely to be subjected to stops and those of Arab descent were twice as likely to be stopped.
On Wednesday, the Montreal police force said it acknowledges that racial profiling is a violation of the fundamental human rights of citizens and that it will make sure that all interventions and police responses are based on merit.
The policy, a first of its kind in Quebec, includes the requirement of officers to fill out a form identifying the reasons and circumstances for the street check. The reason for the intervention has to be announced along with the motives behind it.
Montreal police officers will be prohibited from stopping individuals based on race or any other discriminatory factors and the check has to be justifiable.
The policy was developed following 160 consultations with police stations and community members.
In addition, new ‘coaches’ will be asked to accompany officers and independent researchers will also be working alongside the police force to analyze and evaluate the new protocols.
“We recognize the systemic problem,” police chief Sylvain Caron said during the press conference alongside sociologist Frédéric Boisrond.
“The behaviour of others has an impact on our lives,” said Boisrond. He added that he accepted the position as independent strategic advisor because he believes having a seat at the table will trigger change, rather than leaving it empty.
Caron added that police body cameras are still in the works but insisted it’s simply another tool in the toolbox to help combat issues within the force.
Wednesday’s announcement of the new street check policy comes after a major protest against racial profiling on Sunday that gathered hundreds of people from all part of the Island.
— With files from The Canadian Press and Global’s Tim Sargeant